“DMZ," which means demilitarized zone, is a military term that refers to a combat-free area between two enemies. The DMZ in Vietnam lay near the 17th parallel and was created by an agreement known as the Geneva Accords.
The boundary between North Vietnam (officially the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam) and South Vietnam (officially the State and later the Republic of Vietnam) was established as the Ben Hai River. The river ran approximately east-west, approximately on the 17th parallel. The DMZ extended five kilometers on each side of the river.
The DMZ was breached by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) when they constructed the Ho Chi Minh Trail that allowed for the transport of troops and supplies to the National Liberation Front (NLF), or Vietcong, in the south.
The U.S. military and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), in an attempt to stem the flow of soldiers and supplies, built a series of bases surrounded by barbed wire, electrified fencing, and land mines along Route 9, about six miles south of and parallel to the DMZ. That series of bases became known as the “McNamara Line," so named for Robert S. McNamara, then U.S. secretary of defense.
After the Fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the DMZ had no further political or military significance. At the present time, however, it has become a popular point of interest for tourists to the country.
Some of the war`s fiercest fighting and bloodiest battles occurred along that line. Such areas as Khe Sanh, Camp Carroll, and the Rockpile — a hill in the middle of the Cam Lo valley where NVA movements could be observed by U.S. Marines — are forever etched into the minds of the soldiers who fought there and survived.
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